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A top California family court judge has blasted ultra feminists' efforts to undermine the state's child-centered joint custody law. Using strong language, Los Angeles County Superior Court Commissioner-Judge Richard A. Curtis in a 4500-word statement, urged the California Legislature to turn down bills violating the principle that children need the love and nurture of both parents.
He described AB 2116, one of three pending bills, as "...a mean- spirited attack on joint custody brought on behalf of angry, embittered parents who are incapable of cooperation in their chil- dren's best interest and who only wish to bend the court system and our healthy, child-centered body of law to their end of controlling their children and controlling the other parent through their children."
Although unnamed, his target in part was the National Organization of Women, leader of a drive aimed at legislatively emasculating the state's strong joint custody law that serves as a national model. Current anti-joint custody proposals would:
* delete from the joint custody law a requirement for "frequent and continuing contact" for the noncustodial parent,
* delete language instructing judges in awarding custody to consider which parent is more likely to allow children contact with the noncustodial parent,
* bar judges from awarding joint custody if either parent objects,
* free the custodial parent to move with the children without court permission,
* tie the child's welfare to a "healthy primary relationship" (ie, with mom),
* declare psychological adjustment "not related to particular visitation or frequency or length of visits," and
* stress the importance for the children of the "primary caretaker."
"Primary caretaker," is the code phrase, he charged, "for a lot of inappropriate public policy statements they wish to promulgate." Using it, their ultimate goal is to transfer custody determinations from judges to administrators.
"They don't want equality, they don't want justice, they don't want individuals dealt with as unique people with individual needs . . .
They would be perfectly satisfied with an administrative hearing system which delivers cookie cutter results so long as they're playing with a deck stacked in their favor," he declared. Studies have shown, he pointed out, that single custodial fathers are every bit as capable of nurturing their children in their own way. Passage of the bills, in effect, would intensify litigation and nullify current practices' success in persuading couples to mediate and settle. Such nonlegal techniques, however, simply don't work, he added, for the five percent "who aren't too tightly wrapped."
"But it is very important that the trial court continue to have the power to impose joint custody on the far larger majority . . .who come to court . . .tightly wrapped but in an uncooperative frame of mind. ...most such parents will learn to put aside their differences for the sake of giving their children a peaceful life and benefits of having two involved parents."
To the contrary, he warned, "if the backers manage to hornswoggle the Legislature into passing this bill, they will have succeeded in getting you to say, 'The public policy . . . is to discourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child-rearing. They will have succeeded in (putting) the child right back into the middle of their petty personal conflicts..."
The bill backers, he concluded, "like all zealots, victims, and self- righteous people, have a peculiarly warped view of reality which prevents them from seeing the other side. . . They are very, very dangerous, one-sided and unbalanced people from whom to take public policy suggestions."
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